Ride With Me Through Sikkim, India
“If the "Wild Mouse" at your favorite amusement park makes you squeamish, then get out now. A road trip in Sikkim will make your hair stand on end. Indian bus drivers don’t drive, they flail their vehicles down the road, slamming from right to left in a continuous ride taking you to insanity and back. You hope you’re going to live but your brain tells you you’re not. It’s a hairpin turn right, then an extreme U-turn left, then a race straight down that will make a praying man out of an agnostic. It’s a narrow one-lane with no lines and oncoming traffic heading straight at you, claiming most of the road for themselves. No guard rails to protect you from the sheer drops that you can't bear to look over, it’s always a game of chicken until the last fraction of a second with the win going to the guy who’s either the bravest or the biggest idiot. Throw in bald tires and people screaming in fifteen languages, you get the picture.
Huge billboards spread a message along the road, wiping out any sense of confidence you have, warning illiterate bus drivers to consider safety.
“Donate blood to the blood bank not to this road”
“Enjoy your ride don’t commit suicide”
“Hurry hurry spoils the curry”
The road returns to pavement and our diver picks up speed. I found myself begging for intermittent patches of rubbled streets that forced drivers to slow down. The unpaved, gravel roads rattled my brains, like shaken baby syndrome, but at least I felt physically safer. Every bump and every pothole at these high speeds, nearly sent us bouncing off the sheer cliff in bus suicide or smashing into the rocky mountainside.
After six months surviving on the road in Asia, my family was immune to the life-threatening driving-tactics used in China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal and now India. We spent our time in traffic now absorbing the spectacular scenery instead of screaming. Stephanie, my sister's best friend from school, had just joined us from Vancouver, Canada. She sat next to me, her damp hands clamped onto the seat in front of her nearly ripping up the already torn leather.
Of course there were no seat belts and I said, “I just realized that we haven't worn seat belts in what seems like forever.”
“Oh my god, please! Don’t remind me of that,” Steph prayed through clenched teeth.
We were travelling downhill looking out through tall, dense jungle woven together with ferns, vines, moss covered branches and a hundred varieties of trees dressed in twenty shades of green, like something out of Jurassic Park.
Stephanie was aghast as we passed other buses and trucks with dozens of people sitting amongst their boxes on the top of their vehicles roofs. You gotta know, they were swinging out over the cliff’s edge as their bus made sharp turns, around tight bends on these ridiculous mountain roads.
I warned Steph, “Focus on the view. Focus on the beautiful views. Oh look, monkeys.” I pointed to distract her. “Monkeys doing it on the road!”
Steph laughed out loud, unable to resist the comedy of the situation in these last few minutes of her life. She promptly screamed as the bus driver slammed on his brakes, thrusting her into the back of the seat in front of her, which then made me howl. She vacillated between bursting into hysterical laughter and screaming in sheer terror.
“Steph, you gotta stop doing that or the driver’s going to lose his concentration. You’re going to make us crash,” I warned her.
Five hours later, sucking in breath and smoothing down her hair, she stumbled out of the bus, “So far so good.” She clapped her hands. “Still alive in India.” I turned away to cover my smile. Looking at her, I saw myself six months earlier as I had tumbled off my first crazy bus ride in mainland China.”
Today on #TRLT Twitter chat we are discussing, you guessed it, DARING PLACES! The chat is an hour long and starts at 1pmNYC/6pmUK. Search the hashtag #TRLT on Twitter to find us and don’t forget to include the hashtag #TRLT in your tweets to participate with fellow travellers! You can find me each and every week hosting with fellow founder Shane Dallas (public speaker, visited 100+ countries) and amazing travel hosts Jessica Lipowski (accomplished author and “foodie”) and Anton Magnin (specialist in family travel).
Safe travels and see you next week!